Last week, we found that God’s invitation to us is to be for our city—to seek the holistic flourishing of our neighbors and communities. What does this really look like? Jesus once shared a parable—that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed was sowed and grew to become a tree offering shelter and life to the world. What kind of seeds are we sowing in our cities? Let’s sow seeds that give shelter, support our neighbors, and offer radical love to our world.
When the people of Israel were in exile, they didn't know what to do. The Babylonian empire conquered them and expected them to assimilate into Babylonian culture. Jeremiah brought the radical word of God that was so different than what they expected—to seek the wholistic, universal flourishing of the city they were in. God called them to be for their neighbors, not against them. Check out this sermon and see how this is still God's radical message for us today.
As Jesus was gathered with the disciples at the table, a woman unexpectedly anointed him with expensive oil. She did this from a place of deep generosity and appreciation of the person of Jesus because he brought good news to her life and her story. When the disciples responded angrily, Jesus radically lifted her story to be part of the good news. He elevated her story to be equal to his own and made it clear that the good news is for us all.
Jesus shared a story of wedding banquet where none of the invited guests show up, and then the host sends out his messanger to invite all of the outcasts who were not invited before to fill his home and enjoy the celebration. Where do you see yourself in this story where Jesus illustrates that there is room for ALL at God's banquet table?
When Jesus and the disciples retreated for some self-care, the crowds followed them and showed up hungry. The disciples were concerned that they didn't have enough to feed everyone, but Jesus instructed them—give them something to eat. Jesus didn't swoop in to do the work for them, but he invited the disciples to use what they had to make a difference and to trust that it was enough.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall...and that something is the Holy Spirit. In extremely tumultuous times, God sent an angel to the "enemy" and a vision to Peter to help tear down walls and break down barriers between the Jewish people and the Gentiles—this story shows us all that God's love has always Opening the doors wider so that all would be welcomed in to the kindom of God.
No matter your doubts or questions, you are loved by God. Even John the Baptist, who seemed to the the most sure about Jesus, had his doubts and questions when things got tough. Let’s look into the story of John the Baptist to find that God welcomes your doubts, your questions, and all of us who are seekers.
In the beautiful story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, we meet the very first gentile who was baptized into the beloved family. This person was in every way an outsider—a non-binary, Ethiopian gentile—but they were drawn to Jerusalem in pursuit of a God who loved all. However, once human beings get involved, exclusion usually takes place. And of course, even though they read in Isaiah that they were welcome, they weren’t fully welcome at the temple. On their way back home, they encountered Phillip, and in this story, we see the heart of God at work in a broken world—a heart for inclusion, justice, and love of all people.
In Zaccheus’ story, we find that when the heart of God and the heart of humanity intersects, goodness multiplies in ways we could have never imagined!
Jesus was constantly breaking down barriers and going to places and speaking to people that he “shouldn’t” have sought out. In one story, Jesus makes the radical decision to speak to a person who was 1. A Samaritan, 2. A Woman, and 3. An Outsider—all big no-no’s in his day. Jesus sees her—sees her story, her worth, and her truth and he invites her to drink of the living water that satisfies the soul and assures her that there’s not a set of behaviors or places that connect to you to God, but instead it’s being open to God from the depth of your spirit and the truth of who you are.
Have you ever totally missed the point of a story? Well, here’s one that you may have heard, but with fresh eyes we can see new truths. Esther was a queen, but powerless. She was caught up in the same system of oppression as everyone else under the rule of relentless, all-powerful king. But when the ultimate evil threatened the lives of all of her people, she made the choice to risk her life, reveal her identity, and save her people—for such a time as this.
Jonah ran in the exact opposite direction of where God asked him to go. He didn’t see God’s vision of love for all people, but God’s love is cross-cultural—for everyone—and always loving and kind, even when people aren’t. God seeks out to restore, not destroy—to unite, not divide. God cares about all of us.
Three friends made the choice to stand up, literally, and not bow to a golden statue of the king in power. When the king learned that they would not worship him, he had them bound and thrown into a fiery furnace. But, they didn’t burn and even more shocking, there was a fourth being in the fire with them! They only thing that burned away was their bindings. We have a future and a hope, no matter the trial. When we stand up against injustice, God is with us.
We’re beginning a new journey at Open called “Small Story, Big Story” where we will unpack some of the most common Bible stories and find glimpses of the greater story of God’s love in each of them. Today, we begin with the story of Moses and the great Exodus of the Israelite people out of Egypt. As we look a little closer, we begin to see how God hears, draws near, and sends us out to do justice work in our world today!
We’re celebrating 2 years of the Open community and all of the incredible people who call it home. So far, we’ve heard the inspiring stories of some of our Open friends, but today, we’ll remember and tell the story of Open as a community—how we came to be, how we’ve grown, and get a glimpse at who we’ll become.
Did you know that the secret to contentment is right here in our scripture library? Contentment is something that many of us have spent so much of our lives searching for, and God has something to share with us. Today, we also have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the story of Paige Dixon of our Open community, and perhaps we will continue to discover the sacred beauty of each of our own stories along the way.
On Mother’s Day, we gather to contemplate the Mother God and to affirm that God is neither created in the image of man or woman, but transcends it all and lifts us all up as equals. If we all are created in the image of an infinite God, then we need to hear each other’s stories in order to see a more complete vision of God. Today, we also have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the story of Courtney Banatoski of our Open community and perhaps we will each discover the sacred beauty of each of our own stories along the way.
We all have a story to share, an important story of our experience with God and life and lessons along the way. We don’t always think of our story as valued and needed, but your story is sacredly important. If we all are created in the image of an infinite God, then we need to hear each other’s stories in order to see a more complete vision of God. Today, we have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the story of Layton Hernandez of our Open community and perhaps we will each discover the sacred beauty of each of our own stories along the way.
The celebration of Easter at Open was so life-giving! (Just as Easter should be, of course). This Easter, experience Jonathan's message about Mary Magdalene's story and the ever-present power of resurrection invite us to live as people of a love that overcomes.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter that begins the Holy Week. It is the day that we remember and celebrate the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem as king, but as a different kind of king than everyone expected. Kings and kingdoms feel ancient and patriarchal, but there is life to be found when we learn what kind of King Jesus was claimed to be.